Fierce fighting and a military coup has so far forced more than 350,000 Malians to flee across the borders to seek safety in Niger, Burkina Faso and Mauritania. After abandoning their homes, refugees face life in makeshift shelters suffering extreme heat by day and chilling cold by night. The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) is providing shelter, food rations, water & survival kits to the thousands arriving at the borders. The need for aid is urgent because of a severe food crisis in the Sahel region.
Over 380,000 people have fled their homes in Mali to Mauritania, Niger, Burkina Faso other neighboring countries since fighting erupted in January between a Tuareg rebel movement and Malian government forces. Refugee families are living in harsh conditions with limited resources because the local populations are in the midst of a severe drought and food crisis in the Sahel.
UNHCR's assistance is crucial to help alleviate the burden of resources on the host communities. UNHCR has deployed emergency teams to Burkina Faso, Mauritania and Niger and has undertaken rapid needs assessments of the displaced populations. Life-saving assistance is being provided at these sites, including shelter, food, water and health care. UNHCR has airlifted thousands of family tents to all three countries along with crucial aid supplies. Time is vital, given the food crisis in the Sahel.
As a consequence of the military coup and continuing fighting, UNHCR anticipates that Malians will continue to seek safety in Niger, Burkina Faso, Mauritania and elsewhere in the near future. Malnutrition rates for children under 5 are already reaching alarming levels in the Sahel region; it is imperative to rush lifesaving food, water and shelter immediately to prevent famine and innumerable needless deaths among the host countries and refugees.